10 Clean Eating Myths Debunked

With so much nutrition advice out there, it can be hard to figure out who to believe. Diet trends and fads cause confusion about what foods to eat and even when to eat them. Learn the truth behind ten of the most common clean eating myths. 


Juice Cleanses Help You Detox

You've probably heard juicing is a good way to detox your body from impurities. But is drinking only freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices for several days at a time a good idea? Not really. When you choose juice over whole fruits and vegetables, you're missing out on fiber—a nutrient that helps your body digest food more slowly. By drinking juice, you're dumping a whole lot of sugar into your bloodstream (even when you're having lower sugar fruits and vegetables) without fiber, fat, or protein to slow it down.

There is no scientific basis to support the health benefits of juicing over simply including fruits and vegetables in the diet. What's more, juicing might even be more harmful than helpful. The American Journal of Medicine reported a case of nerve damage brought on by a 6-week juicing fast. Oxalates—a compound in plant foods—can be toxic in high doses. In this case, a patient went into acute renal failure that “was attributable to consumption of oxalate-rich fruit and vegetable juices obtained from juicing.” The patient was able to recover a portion of his kidney functioning but sustained permanent damage from his juicing program.

The bottom line: Juicing can be a great supplement to a healthy diet. Consume mostly whole fruits and vegetables to gain the same nutrition that juicing provides plus fiber. 


Fruit Contains Bad Sugar

Fruit has sugar in it, no question. The sugar it contains is called fructose. Fructose, along with glucose (another sugar), forms sucrose—table sugar. In high doses, fructose is linked with metabolic syndrome (a cluster of health issues that increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease). If you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, sweet coffee drinks, or even fruit juice, then chances are you might be getting too much fructose in your diet. But when it comes to sugar in fruit, there's little need to worry. Fruit is nutritious because it provides important vitamins and minerals, and it adds minimal fructose in the American diet. 

In addition to fructose, fruit has fiber, a nutrient that slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. It also takes up a lot more volume, which means you'll be less likely to overeat. It takes several apples to get a cup of juice, but if you're eating whole apples, one is enough.

According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there's actually an inverse relationship between eating fruit and body weight and the risk of obesity-related diseases. 

The bottom line: Fruit is good for you!


Eating After 6 p.m. Makes You Store Fat

Eating after 6 p.m. (or whatever arbitrary time), doesn't make you fat. Eating more calories than your body burns through exercise or daily activities does. If you find yourself getting the midnight munchies, or skimping on food during the day and making up for it in the evening, then late-night eating might be an issue for you. If you find that you overeat or consume junk foods in the evening, then take a look at what's really driving your behavior, and how to address it.

Eating before bed might even have some health benefits. It appears supplying our body with nutrients before bed promotes positive physiological changes. Those results are enhanced even more when late night eating is combined with exercise training during the day. 

Remember, though, that eating late at night might cause gastric reflux. If you're affected, you'll need to stay upright (seated or standing) for three hours after eating.

The bottom line: As long as you're making healthy food choices and exercising, then eating before bed can be a good thing (unless you have gastric reflux).


Everyone Should Eat Gluten-Free

Wheat contains a protein called gluten. Going gluten-free is essential for those diagnosed with celiac disease (CD). Currently, that is approximately 1% of the American population. Some people have gluten sensitivity and feel better avoiding foods like wheat and other whole grains.

Most consumers of gluten-free products are people not diagnosed with CD who believe wheat and everything about it is unhealthy. Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, asserts that gluten-free is not a healthy way to go for others, meaning those without celiac and states "unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber." The British Journal of Nutrition also reported gluten-free diets reduced beneficial gut bacteria vital to maintaining our immunity. 

The bottom line: Gluten-free diets may not be the best choice for everyone. 


Organics Provide Better Nutrients

A health halo often surrounds foods that bear the organic label. But organic food isn't necessarily healthier. There's limited research on the subject, but a clinical review of the evidence suggests organic produce is not more nutrient-dense than conventional. Also, conventionally farmed chicken and pork were more likely to have antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

And when it comes to processed food products, organic cookies and chips aren't any healthier for you. Organics can be more expensive than conventional so knowing there really isn’t a difference in the nutrient value offers some comfort for those on tight budgets.

The bottom line: Organics are preferable not because they contain more nutrients, but because they are treated with fewer pesticides and other toxins than conventional foods. 


I Can’t Eat “Bad Foods” Anymore

You might define "bad foods" in many ways, but doing so (and then forever swearing off those foods) is not healthy or realistic. A healthy diet is a way of eating that you can sustain. Black-and-white thinking isn't particularly useful for the lifelong part of a healthy lifestyle. One way of thinking about a healthy balance is to use the 90-10 rule. Make 90% of your meals and snacks nutritious (and delicious), but save room for 10% to splurge on fun foods.

The bottom line: Choose nutrient-dense foods most of the time, but know that your diet isn't busted if you enjoy a treat occasionally.


Chocolate Isn’t Healthy

It appears not all chocolate is created equal and the darker the better. Dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants. Research suggests that consuming dark chocolate may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The chemical compounds in dark chocolate may improve body function and enhance athletic performance. Eating dark chocolate stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO) into the bloodstream. Increased nitric oxide dilates blood vessels for better blood and oxygen flow to working muscles.

The bottom line: Eating dark chocolate may be good for your heart.


Don’t Eat Egg Yolks

How many of us have tossed our egg yolks believing them to be unhealthy? According to research, we have been dumping valuable nutrients down the drain. Egg yolks have essential fatty acid compounds beneficial to our cells. They also contain important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Research suggests that eating whole eggs may increase metabolism and good cholesterol (HDL). Increasing HDL is recommended for heart health and is accomplished through healthy eating and exercise. 

The bottom line: Eating a whole egg daily provides quality protein and beneficial nutrients.


Carbohydrates Make You Fat

We have all heard that in order to lose weight, we should stop eating carbohydrates because they make us fat. The truth is that there may be a difference in the types of carbs we should be eating, but they don’t make us fat. Consuming more calories than we can burn through daily activities and exercise is what increases our fat stores. 

Eating good carbs helps with weight loss, body fat reduction, and improved muscle growth. Carbohydrates are our primary energy source and vital for optimal body functioning. Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are great examples of carbohydrates to include in a healthy diet. These "good" carbs contain essential nutrients and fiber and provide sustained energy throughout the day. Carbs support optimal fitness levels, improved digestion, and reduce the risk of heart disease and other illness. 

Consuming carbs lacking in nutrient value can contribute to unhealthiness and eventual weight gain. Examples of carbohydrates to avoid include sugary drinks, white bread, processed foods, and ice cream. 

The bottom line: Carbs don’t make us fat, and there is a difference between "good" and "bad" carbohydrates. 


Carbonated Drinks Are Bad For You

Many of us consider bubbly drinks to be filled with sugar and bad for you. This is far from the truth. Some carbonated beverages can be considered healthy. Carbonated waters help people who struggle to drink enough regular water meet their daily fluid requirements. Staying hydrated is an important part of staying healthy.

What makes carbonated drinks good or bad for you: The ingredients. If they include sugar, additives, and preservatives, then that drink wouldn’t be a healthy choice. If the carbonated drink is nothing but water made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide gas, then it’s good for you. Sometimes people may experience bloating or gas with carbonated water, and there's also a potential risk of tooth enamel erosion over time. Otherwise, plain bubbly water is just as hydrating and healthy as regular water. 

The bottom line: Plain fizzy waters are healthy alternatives to regular water.

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